1 On the way to the Dead Sea we stopped on the highway to view Jerusalem from afar. The view was spectacular in the morning. The gold is the Dome of the Rock, atop the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
2 Here I am standing above Jerusalem with Daisy and Chris.
3 When we drove to the other side of the mountain and into the West Bank, the landscape became more arid. The dry desert scape was very beautiful. Masada is about a 90-minute drive from Jerusalem.
4 Here I am on the tram that took us from the parking area up to Masada, overlooking the Dead Sea. We arrived in the afternoon and it was 110º in the sun. We would have preferred to climb up Masada, but it was just too hot!
5 The tram arrives and departs every 30 minutes.
6 The spectacular view of the Dead Sea from Masada, which was built upon this plateau by Herod the Great between 37 and 31 BCE as a fortress for himself. It included a large casement wall around the plateau.
7 Shady tent shelters are placed strategically atop Masada for tourists to find relief from the hot sun.
8 Herod's design included storehouses, like these, for food and large cisterns, which ingeniously filled with rainwater. There were also barracks, palaces, and even an armory - all very important in King Herod's time.
9 A better view of the reconstructed storerooms - Much excavation and reconstruction has taken place at this important archeological site.
10 These are the ruins of Herod's palace, which stood at the top of Masada and provided a spectacular view.
11 Masada is very well-maintained and has a series of well-built pedestrian walkways, which are easy to navigate.
12 Water flows into the Dead Sea from streams and rivers, but does not flow out. Irrigation along the Jordan River has dramatically decreased the level of the Dead Sea in the past two decades, creating a serious environmental issue.
13 The Dead Sea is the lowest surface water on earth, about 1388-feet below sea level. It is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean, making it a harsh environment for plant and animal life.
14 Here I am with the gentleman in charge of Masada's maintenance. He's been working at the site for more than two decades.
15 After leaving Masada, we began our drive to the chosen beach for our swim in the Dead Sea. We took many photos of this unique landscape.
16 It is really a stunning landscape. Very little can live in the Dead Sea other than certain salt-loving bacteria.
17 The Dead Sea is receding at an alarming rate of three-feet a year, threatening plant and wildlife reserves along the shore. This is an important resting stop for hundreds of millions of migratory birds that fly between Europe and Africa.
18 The managers were waiting for us and guided us down to the shore so that we could cast our votes for the Dead Sea as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
19 Here I am casting my vote on a Smart Phone.
21 There were many people enjoying the water and the Dead Sea clay, using it as a mud bath.
22 There I am floating! I had seen so many pictures of people sitting upright and reading newspapers and magazines. I was hoping that I could even walk on the water, but of course, I could not!
23 Chris got right in, as well but, he too, found it hard to sit upright.
24 Here we are starting to slather ourselves with the dark black mud of the Dead Sea's clay bottom.
25 The mud is supposed to be very good for the skin, by cleansing and softening. It is rich in minerals, including calcium, iodine, saline, potassium, and bromide. When it dries, you simply rinse it off.
26 After rinsing and changing, we began our drive back to Jerusalem.
27 Along the way, we saw many date farms. Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East for thousands of years. Most of the date plantations are beautifully maintained and are very productive.
28 Notice how the dates are grown in bags to protect them from insects and to keep the ripe dates from falling onto the ground below.
29 I was astonished by how many dates were produced by each tree!
30 When we returned to Jerusalem, we had enough time before dinner to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest Christian site in the world.
31 This is a complicated and very busy church.
32 Six different sects of Christianity - Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian, Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopian - claim space in this church. When we were visiting, the Greek Orthodox, Armenians, and Catholic were all holding mass.
33 One of the fantastic murals in the church, which stands on a site that is believed to encompass both Golgotha, or Calvary, where Jesus was crucified, and the tomb (sepulchre) where he was buried.
34 This is the Stone of Unction, where Jesus was anointed and prepared for burial after he was removed from the cross. Visitors often kneel and kiss this stone.
35 At the end of a mass, priests and parishioners move from place to place.
36 Here is one such procession. The music and chanting were wonderful.
37 Candles are lit, as in other churches, when one makes a prayer for a loved one.
38 Inside one of the priests' rooms in the church
39 It is said that this is the tomb where Jesus was buried.
40 Inside the chapel that holds the tomb
41 Looking up at the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
42 This is the Catholic altar.
43 Part of the Catholic service in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
44 More of that service
45 The sword of Godfrey of Bouillon is displayed at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He was the first ruler of Jerusalem and one of the leaders of the First Crusade.
46 These are paintings in the Armenian section of the church.
47 We returned to The King David Hotel so that I could freshen up for the rehearsal dinner of my nephew, Josh Bernstein and his fiancé, Lily Snyder.
48 The place cards at the rehearsal dinner given for the bride and groom by the groom's parents, Pam Bernstein and George Friedman
49 The parents of the couple - James Snyder, Pam Bernstein, Tina Snyder, and George Friedman
50 The L stands for Lily Snyder - the bride and the J stands for Josh Bernstein - the groom
51 The tables were set with antipasti and Middle Eastern delicacies. The dinner was a Middle Eastern barbeque.
52 Josh and his mother Pam
53 Alison Brod and her husband Andy - guests of the couple
54 My first plate of olive pita, tabouli, falafel, hummus, and avocado salad
55 The brother of the groom, Andrew Bernstein prepared a most wonderful photographic essay/timeline of the couple from birth to present.
56 Lily and Josh during the showing of Andy's tribute
57 This is my nephew Eric - step-brother of the groom.
58 This is the plate I brought back from the buffet - grilled meats, vegetables, and fish.
59 Here I am with two of the beautiful bride's maids. Joan Hamburg of WOR radio is in the red dress on left
60 The chef of the Mount Zion Hotel asked for a photo with me. It was a wonderful evening looking out over the City of Jerusalem and we all waited with great anticipation for the next day and the wedding.